Evie Manieri’s debut is a pretty fast read, even at 500-plus pages. It’s neither convoluted nor complicated, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a piece of fluff. Rather, Blood’s Pride hooks you in with its characters and story — beginning with the Prologue, when the Norlanders show up on the shores of Shadar bringing war and occupation. And the Shadari watch in horror as their religious leaders commit suicide rather than pray to the Gods for salvation…Fast forward a few decades. The Norlander Governor is dying, and his daughter Frea picking up the reins of control – bucking tradition that says the oldest inherits, which would be Eonar, who’s more interested in… Well, I haven’t figured that out yet, but never mind. Their younger sister Isa gets anxiety attacks when she’s stressed, which does nothing for someone who belongs to a race of fierce warriors. Who burn in the sun. And live in a desert, to boot. Has anyone gone “huh?” yet? Hold on to that thought.We have better luck with the Shadari, who’ve been subjugated into slave labor. There’s a resistance, led by a man crippled in a mine accident. His twin sister is hiding from everyone, and I haven’t decided if it’s for a good reason, or misguided vanity. Tempers are hot between the villagers (and miners) and the palace servants. And there’s only one Shadari asha – priest – left, and he’s not teaching himself out of a position. Phew.But wait! We’re not done. There’s also the Nomas, a band of roving nomads whose lifestyle might raise a few eyebrows, and whose King escorts – personally! – a mercenary to Shadar. A mercenary the Shadari hire to help their resistance. Though they have no real plan, no real numbers, no weapons, and no true leader.Given all of the above, Blood’s Pride could have been a real mess but somehow it isn’t and I think that’s because Evie Manieri makes you care enough about these characters that you worry about them, and wonder what’s going to happen to them, and cross your fingers that they make it through the chaos in one piece. There’s plenty of action, plenty of confusion, and plenty of good-intentions-gone-awry. There’s also a nice wrap-up at the end, and a lead-in for the next story in this trilogy.If your fantasy interest lies in the vein of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, this isn’t the story for you — it doesn’t have the breadth of vision, character, or political intrigue. But if you like a well-told story with flawed characters who do the best they can with what’s at hand, then give Blood’s Pride a whirl. I’ll be picking up the next book, to see where Manieri takes this.drey’s rating: Pick it up!